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Lot 267: Bentley 4 litre Open Tourer by Vanden Plas

Cars & Motorcycles, Historics at Brooklands (26 May 2012)

Bentley motorcars have always been built to be driven. That is as true today as it was in 1919 when W. O. Bentley designed the first vintage Bentley. The early history of Bentley was written on the racetracks with the spirit of the Bentley Boys. They celebrated five magnificent Le Mans victories in the 1920's and in 2003 enjoyed a return to those glory years with a sixth win. When Rolls-Royce bought Bentley Motors, they shut down production of the Vintage Bentley 8 litre and 4 litre. Then they had to decide what to do with the Bentley name as they couldn't afford to alienate their customer base and not build a new Bentley. The question was what sort of car to build; an especially tricky question given the Rolls-Royce Board's prior lack of interest in sporting cars. After several false starts, the Experimental Department developed a prototype car based on an earlier 18hp experimental chassis called the 'Peregrine' and a suitably tweaked 20/25hp engine; this combination proved to be a winner. W.O. Bentley, who came to Rolls-Royce as one of the assets of Bentley Motors and was being used by Rolls-Royce as a glorified tester, tested one of the prototype cars extensively on the Continent and wrote back to the Derby factory giving the car overall praise. The new Derby Bentley was introduced to the press at the end of September 1933 and to the public at the Olympia Show, which followed soon after. The 3 litre Derby Bentley was designed to be the 'silent sports car' and it was marketed that way. Beautiful, sporting coachwork from the finest British and continental builders was mounted on the 3 litre chassis. And while Rolls-Royce did not officially sanction racing, E. R. 'Eddie' Hall raced his 3 litre with notable success in the Tourist Trophy races of 1934 and 1935 and received a great deal of help from the Experimental Department in doing so. There is little doubt that the Derby Bentley is one of the most flexible and stylish motorcars ever penned. The history of B5GA is a fascinating one. The chassis was originally laid and plated in 1933 as 4-B-IV and used by Bentley Motors as an experimental car. During this time, the chassis was tested with a number of different body styles, initially a Park Ward open Touring design which later changed to a sporting saloon body with the 3 litre engine modified to accept larger inlet valves and a 6.9:1 compression ratio. It was in this version that it lapped Brooklands at an impressive 90.4mph according to Alec Harvey-Bailey's book, 'The Derby Bentleys'. It was subsequently fitted with a new 4 litre engine to replace the 3 litre unit and sold, in 1936, to a Mr. W.O. Kennington. At that time it sported a four seat, four light sports saloon body by Vanvooren. Interestingly, the very next chassis to be registered was to a Mr. Woolf Barnato, chairman of Bentley Motors. Latterly, the car was fitted with its current body in the style of a Vanden Plas Open Tourer and thought to be by Dick Brockman of South Stoke, Oxfordshire. It was shown in the Midland Motor Museum between 1988 and 1996 and since acquired by the vendor; a noted collector and restorer. A mechanical overhaul took place starting in 1992 with a new stainless steel exhaust fitted followed by, in 1994, a complete engine rebuild carried out by John Merryfield in Henley-in-Arden. He clearly knew his onions as uprated bearings were utilised; the later Mk. VI, 4 litre engine shares the same sized conrods but with shell bearings compared to the rudimentary white metal counterparts in pre-war cars and giving longer life and easy maintenance. A new radiator matrix was installed in 1998 and in 2000/2001, new kingpins were fitted, front brake restoration and a total rebuild of the central lubrication system took place. So well enhanced was this elegant example that it was subsequently entered into the next seven Monte-Carlo rallies becoming the outright winner in 2001. In 2010, the axle was re-built with new bearings, new differential gears and the added benefit of an overdrive which provides higher gearing on both third and forth whilst providing a relaxed cruising speed for both driver and passengers. Used in Bentley Drivers Club events in both Sweden and Denmark, this beautifully presented example with its graceful lines, sound mechanics and impeccable rallying credentials benefits from new tyres all round, a full 12 month MoT test certificate and a comprehensive history file.

Lot Details
Auction Cars & Motorcycles
Historics at Brooklands, Brooklands
TypeCar
Lot Number267
Estimate£95000-£120000
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)£107800
Year1933
Condition rating
Registration numberAUL 1
Mileage-
Chassis numberB5GA
Engine numberZ10BH
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors2